Designer: Gunter Burkhardt and Wolfgang Lehmann
Time: 45 minutes
Times Played: 2 times with a review copy
I came home from Essen with several new card games, all of which I was excited to try. I couldn’t seem to get anyone to play Druids, though. “Oh, I don’t hear good things about that one” they’d say, and we’d move on to another game. Some of the other card games did indeed turn out to be not so great, and I stopped bringing this to game day, figuring it was as mediocre as the others. A few months passed and, as I was packing for a game convention with a flea market, I threw this in the bag, figuring if nothing else I could sell it. Thankfully I was able to recruit some players and give it a try, because I quite enjoyed it – and is often the case, it is best not to listen to negative reviews from people who have yet to try a game.
Druids is a card game for 3 to 5 players. While the box and the art look somewhat similar to Wizard, the game play is different. Players are novice druids learning how to control different domains while at the same time learning to pace themselves and not try to control too much.
The game comes with 60 cards in 5 colors as well as 5 special cards –one Gaia, two Golden Sickle and 2 Mistletoe cards – that do not belong to any of the color suits.
The Gaia card is set aside and all other cards are shuffled together and divided into 2 stacks. The Gaia card is inserted into a stack, and that stack is put on top. Each player is then dealt between 13 and 15 cards (depending on the number of players).
The player with the Gaia card is the start player. The Gaia card has a value of zero and no color, so the start player decides what color the card will be. Other players then play a card following standard trick-taking rules; if they can follow suit they must and if not can play a card of their choosing.
The highest card in the suit of the first color card played wins the trick. The player takes the cards they won and sorts them into piles based on color with the lowest-value card of each suit on top. If the player already has a stack of cards in a color they add the new stack to the top.
The Golden Sickle and Mistletoe cards both break the “you must follow suit” rule and can be played on any trick.
The Golden Sickle does not count as a particular color or number and goes to the player who wins the trick, who sorts their cards and then put the Golden Sickle on their new stack that has the highest value and discards those cards.
The Mistletoe simply lets you pass; the player who wins the trick takes the Mistletoe card and places it under any of their stacks (it doesn’t add or detract from your score, so it can also be discarded).
The round ends when everyone has played all their cards or if a player has a stack of cards for each of the 5 colors. A player with all 5 colors loses 3 points; other players score the value of the top card of each of their stacks.
All cards are shuffled together and dealt out and the player with the fewest experience points starts the next round. The game continues for 5 rounds, at which point the game ends and the player with the most points wins; if players are tied for most points they rejoice in their shared victory.
The rules include a variant where the starting player can decide whether players put the highest card or the lowest card on top when winning a trick.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
I am a big fan of card games, and, while this doesn’t have any truly new or exciting mechanics I still enjoy it.
There is more nuance to the strategy here than you might think on first glance. The decision of when and how to take a trick to maximize your score while not getting too close to having 5 stacks leads to some interesting choices; you need to find the sweet spot where you can stop when you have points before you hit the point where you cannot stop taking tricks and end up with all 5 colors. You have to take some tricks and some risk if you want to have a good score, and the special cards add some level of control.
The art on the cards is appealing, and there are symbol s on the card in addition to the colors for those who have difficulty discerning colors. The box is the standard Amigo card game box and is perfectly sized to hold the game. It did not come with English rules, but they are available on Boardgame Geek.
The box says 45 minutes, but all of our games lasted closer to 30.
THOUGHTS OF OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS
Greg S: I am enamored by Druids, finding the game exciting, fun and, yes, sometimes frustrating … but it fun, nasty sort of way. I enjoy the familiar trick-taking challenge of deciding which cards to play and in what order, there is also the added element of trying to “stick” your opponents with unwanted cards, while trying to avoid your opponents from doing the same to you. I enjoy this “offense / defense” aspect of the game, and for me, it elevates it to the status of one of my favorite trick-taking games.
James Nathan: Not unlike Tery, this is one I enthusiastically brought home from Essen, but sat unplayed for many months – finally only get played by me this week as I saw this review was forthcoming. From Meinz/Willi to Potato Man, I’m impressed by Günter Burkhardt’s ability to sculpt a trick-taker that does something different or evokes a different feeling. I have faith in his understanding of the archetype.
I enjoyed this one (though my group did not). As is his style, Günter found a way to make cards throughout the ranges interesting to have in your hand and play; having the highest cards will not necessarily be advantageous. In my one play, I couldn’t quite grasp the rhythm of when to take and when to avoid tricks (which I see as a good thing).
One note that struck me as odd was that it didn’t ‘feel’ like a trick-taking game. It felt like an interesting card game, but something didn’t feel canon. Mechanically, I think it should, and I mean none of this pejoratively, I just find it curious.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! Greg
I like it. Tery, James Nathan
Neutral. Mark Jackson
Not for me…